In 1983 Motorola launched its first consumer mobile phone (the DynaTAC 8000X) for USD$3,999. Six years later it released the MicroTAC, reducing the price down to USD$3,000. From then, the average price of phones gradually came down to when in 2006 RIM released its Blackberry Pearl which retailed for USD$300. Then came the iPhone in 2007 which initially sold for a price of an unheard of $600.
Since that time phones have been slowly creeping to a point well past USD$1,000. The top-end iPhone is now almost USD$1,500 fully loaded, with Samsung’s flagship model and innovative models (the Fold and Flip) hitting close to that number. In Australia, as per the screenshot above you can see some of the premium phones with ‘innovative’ features. The Huawei Mate Xs with its foldback PLASTIC screen and 5G modem tops the list at AUD$3,999.
Many tech sites have written about this price-creep with consumers being less willing to refresh their phones as quickly as they had in the past; the increasing price being the biggest blocker. From recent studies & reports, less than 10% of consumers are willing to pay more than USD$1,000 for a smartphone yet all flagship phones from the main manufacturers are priced well above that. Having said that the big 3 of Apple, Samsung and Google are continuing to fill out their ‘budget’ or mid-range models. Samsung is the most advanced and experienced in building out their range with their A and previous J model ranges. A mid-range phone is now something considered between $500 and just under $1,000.
Obviously we’re asking our phones to do a lot more than what they originally did when they first launched in the 80s when they just, you know, made calls. Today, we expect our phones to do that as well as be our secure wallet, movie and tv viewer, full gaming device, personal concierge, date finder and emergency/ essential service providers. Yes, smartphones are becoming more essential in our lives but paying $2k for something that is only going to last you 3 years at the most seems ludicrous.
With the ever impending rollout and greater adoption of 5G this will be a critical juncture to see if the phone brands can get to a good price point for a decently specced out, high quality and reliable smartphone. Fleshing out the mid-range models seems like the best option; we doubt we’ll see flagship models going for less than $1k. We just hope we don’t go back to the 80s and witness more phones over $3,000.